A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

ABC Members and NCC Competitors Inspired by Opening Presentations at ABC Convention 2018

The Opening General Session of the ABC Convention 2018 in Long Beach, California began this year with an explosion of sound and excitement.  The procession of this year’s National Craft Championships competitors into the crowded Grand Ballroom of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center was led by none other than the uniformed horns and drums of the University of Southern California’s famous Trojan Marching Band!  The band stood at the front of the hall and continued to play until all of the competitors and project managers for the competitions had reached their seats at the front of the room.  ABC National Chair George R. Nash Jr. and ABC’s VP of EH&S and Workforce Development Greg Sizemore, the emcees of the session who had warmed up the crowd with a comedic “fake opening” before the band and competitors entered, looked on from the stage.

As the audience began to settle back into their seats, Sizemore asked the 171 competitors competing in the National Craft Championships and the members of the 16 college teams who were competing in the Construction Management Competition to “stand up and be recognized in this room.”  The applause continued when Sizemore then asked all former NCC competitors to stand and be recognized.  Next Sizemore introduced and had stand the finalists for Craft Professional of the Year:  Richard Brown of Gaylor Electric, Troy Clinger of Kent Companies, Jeff Dickman of Van Dyken Mechanical, and Jaime Ramos of MAREK Brothers.  Finally, Sizemore recognized the finalists for Craft Instructor of the Year: Jason Ashlaw representing ABC Empire State Chapter, David Clements representing ABC Cornhusker Chapter, William Fuller representing ABC Greater Houston Chapter, Roosevelt Norwood representing ABC Pelican Chapter, and Eugene Senter representing ABC Indiana/Kentucky Chapter.

Nash addressed the audience saying “This is the biggest celebration of merit shop construction, and I thank each and every one of you for being here.”  He then introduced the previous ABC Chair, Chuck Goodrich, who said a prayer and led the Pledge of Allegiance after the colors were presented by the California State Military Honor Guard.  The National Anthem was sung by Nate Campbell, a graduate of ABC SoCal and Merit Training Trust Plumbing Apprentice Program.

In a previously recorded introduction, Nash stated: Associated Builders and Contractors, in my mind, is a collection of people who believe in a common cause: the freedom to choose how we want to work in the workplace. … Every single thing we do – our education, our training, our safety programs, our membership, our networking, our political advocacy – everything we do allows us to have that freedom that we enjoy today.  To me, that’s what ABC is all about.  That is a movement; that is a movement of freedom.”

Long Beach City Councilwoman Stacy Mungo welcomed the ABC members and shared a few thoughts.  “It is so important to have training programs like the ones you guys care so much about.  Without training programs, what is our future?”

Stephen Goodling, Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO, talked about the abundance of construction in the area.  “Tonight, you are going to be out on our plaza; you are going to see construction – not anything new to you guys.  It is a two-million-dollar Bellagio-type water fountain with lights and sound.  Also, we just finished another $2 million project underneath that.  The Port is building a $1.4 billion bridge so that the supertankers can come in.  We have 3,000 residential units under construction in downtown Long Beach.  We are a city about development and growth, and we are so pleased to have people here who share that same vision and do that same work.”

Television Host and Producer Jaymes Vaughn introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Alex Sheen: “Alex is the founder of because I said I would which is a nonprofit social movement dedicated to the betterment of humanity through promises made and kept. … His work has been featured on ABC’s World News Now, ABC’s World News Tonight, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, NBC’s Today show, and many other programs.”

Sheen told the story of how he came up with a simple idea which went viral when he posted it on the Internet.  The idea came from the example Sheen’s father set for him.  Sheen said, “My father was a man of his word.  To me and to my brother, when he said he was going to be there for you, he showed up.  My father was far from a perfect person, but he kept his promises.  It turns out that in this life, a lot of people just don’t do that.”

Sheen’s father came to the United States as an immigrant and worked as a hospital pharmacist for over 25 years before he was diagnosed with stage four small cell lung cancer.  Sheen faced the questions that many face in times of loss such as “why me?” and “why does it have to be my family?”  When asked to write a few words for his father’s eulogy, Sheen thought about his dad’s best qualities and came back to the importance of a promise.  Sheen said,

“Too often in this life, people say things like ‘I’ll get to it’ or ‘Tomorrow.’  Well, I’ve learned that one day there is no tomorrow, and the promises we made that we keep and those we choose to dishonor – that’s what defines us and our character.  It always has.  Long before my father was ever born and long after I go, it is the single measure of honor.  One that we use so quickly to judge other people, right? – how they treat their promises.  But perhaps we can use this idea to judge ourselves.”

Sheen titled his father’s eulogy “Because I Said I Would,” and for the first time, handed out small cards which would become the start of what is now an international movement.  One side of the cards says “because I said I would.”  The other side is blank.  Sheen’s simple idea is for each of us to take a promise we have made – it could be small or perhaps so large it “defines part of our purpose for being on this earth” – and write it on the card.  We then give that card to the person we are making that commitment to and tell them that we intend to fulfill the promise, and when we do, we will return and ask for the card to be returned back to us.  The card becomes a symbol of our honor, and we must then work to fulfill the promise and claim it back.

When Sheen posted this idea online with the offer to send some of these cards to anyone who wanted them free of charge, he was overwhelmed with the response.  Since September 4, 2012 – the day his father died – Sheen’s organization has distributed over 4.47 million promise cards to over 153 countries by request only.  People began to post photos of their promise cards.  Sheen struggled to keep up with the requests while still working at his “real” job.  One day he received a letter which inspired him to quit his job and devote all of his time to this movement.  The letter told him that his blog and promise cards had literally inspired the letter writer to persevere through struggles and to not commit suicide.  Sheen decided that from then on, he must be “all in.”

Interspersed between several inspirational stories, Sheen offered the following words of advice.

“We cannot let the evil in this world overwhelm us, overcome us, become us.”

“I am all for miracles, but sometimes what we’ve got to remember is that what the world will always need is for people to do what they said they were going to do in the first place.  To be there for their friends and families, to volunteer, to graduate – the promises that we make and keep, that makes this world.”

“Promises are often lonely.  You might ask people to join you, but it’s not their promise, it’s yours.  When you want to quit, ask yourself, ‘Why did I make this promise?’”

Following a standing ovation for Sheen’s address, the session concluded with Brian Holley, American Institute of Constructors President Elect, thanking the sponsors who “made this week happen.”  ABC members left to attend the convention opening night celebration while the competitors retreated to prepare for the next day’s competitions.